Monday, September 24, 2012

Quietly Creeping Back

Sunflower: acrylic on canvas

I hear echoes throughout my blog as I type, whispers of “Is it her or did someone hijack it?”

What a long and short summer it was: long due to constant activity and short due to constant activity. I’ve been wearing a sweatshirt and slippers around the house for a couple of weeks now, since it leapt into fall, far before I was ready. I want 80+ degrees again already, not frost warnings. Something tells me it might be a long winter, as well.

The good part of that is that I hibernate as much as humanly possibly when it’s cold. That means it’s a good time to get indoor work done.

Yesterday, I hit the end of the next-to-final draft of Rehearsal 3 (it was draft 6), and I started sending out review copies to my willing editors. It’s a long one, the longest thing I’ve written to date. I won’t order many copies to keep here, since it’s over 800 pages and these days, short books are in vogue. I’ve never been an “in vogue” type. I don’t care much about fashion and what color is in this year. I like comfort. Jeans and tees are good. I’m earthy and casual and would rather spend my time working than studying current styles or, ugh!, clothes shopping. I’m just as I am and that’s okay.

I used to care more about that; teenagers generally do so that’s no surprise. It took me far too long to not care, though.

I was just talking to a young writer friend who borrowed my copy of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. She’s a fellow introvert, and we both have social anxiety issues. I’m also a high self monitor. She’s a low self monitor who doesn’t understand not just being who you are. She’s right, of course. We all should just be who we are.

So I had to stop and think why, if I feel that way, I’m a high self monitor. It comes off as being fake to others. I understand that position. I disagree, though. It’s a part of who I am just as much as anything else.

I thought back to my high school days, when much of our personalities become so intensely developed. Yes, I do still remember them, regardless of how long I haven’t been there. Back then, as I told her, there was no such things as ADHD. Those kids were only lazy daydreamers and often written off as not likely to achieve much. There was no big push to stop bullying. We were expected to learn to deal with it as part of life and just keep truckin’ along. Teens did not go to therapy back in the Eighties (or very rarely). Parents darn well expected them to fit in to their school environment and excel regardless of how it didn’t fit all of us. So what? That’s life. Deal with it. If we didn’t excel, we had only ourselves to blame.

Sound harsh? Maybe. On the other hand, many of us did learn coping skills kids today don’t, because they don’t have to. Someone else helps find ways for them to cope, be it medication or therapy. Not that there’s anything implicitly wrong with either (heck, I have a psych degree – obviously I believe in therapy), but like so many things, it has swung so far the other direction that coping skills is a term too many don’t even understand.

Would I have felt better back then if I knew I was so easily distracted and constantly thought about 50 things at the same time and wrote stories in my head during class when the particular topic wasn’t interesting enough because my brain is different than “normal” people? That there was a physical reason I felt different and had so much trouble making myself do homework even though it wasn’t hard. (It was rarely hard; it was boring, which is far worse to some of us.) Yes. Probably I would have. I feel better now knowing it.

On the other hand, I learned to teach myself coping skills. And it worked. I can be proud that I did that on my own, with no one even realizing what I was doing.

Either way, I’m still a high self monitor. Although I have a hard time being out and around people (and some days are worse than others), I have taught myself to do book signings with a genuine smile and to actually enjoy talking to folks I don’t know. That’s not me naturally. It’s me as I need to be in order to market my books. Is that fake? No. I come home exhausted. I still spend as much time away from people as I can. But I’m coping, and this year, I don’t even have a stress migraine all the next day as I did every day last summer after signings.

So, now that is me, also. It’s me training me, out of my own self-interests. It’s what I had to learn to do back in high school and it’s serving me well now. Honestly, from what my family says, that IS me as I was when I was young: friendly, outgoing, sociable. Maybe my “fake front” is not fake. Maybe that’s the real me and this social anxiety is the fake part that needs to be pushed aside.

Will I ever change to low self monitor instead of high? Probably not. Control is a big part of who I am. I’m okay with that. It’s what I can deal with.

Fall/winter is wonderful for half of me. It’s hibernation time. However, I do so look forward to spring/summer when I crawl back out of that shell and into society in order to indulge the other half of me. Nature is a beautiful thing.